Silly Stories About Transition
Carol doesn't care much for men. She also doesn't understand fascination with sports, and strongly associates sports fascination with men.
We were reading the Sunday paper one morning, and she handed me the sports section, saying, "Here you are, dear, would you like to read the sports?"
I gave her a polite-feminine-but-disdainful, "No thanks; I'll pass on that." Skipped a beat, then dropped into full bass, grabbed it out of her hands, and said, "Yeah, lemme have a look at that thing."
It left Carol shuddering.
Back to the story of my best friend and her dilemma about what cocktail dress to wear. After we'd looked at the dresses she had in her closet and were walking downstairs to look at her catalogs, she said, "If you have any other suggestions, I'd be glad to hear them." I answered, "Sorry, but the only times I've ever been to an occasion like that, I wore a tux." (The picture of Diane-in-a-tux was taken in the foyer of her house.) She said, "So did I. That's how I got around this issue last time."
Before transition, I took a second run through group therapy. I had some non-gender issues to deal with as well, but I also wanted to use the safety and intimacy of group therapy to get some experience in dealing with my transition in a group where I had a continuing relationship. By the time of this story, I was out to everyone in the group and had gone to a couple of sessions as Diane.
One of the men wanted to get together with me outside of group, so we could have more time to talk. So one afternoon we met at the coffee shop in a Barnes & Noble bookstore at Crabtree Mall in Raleigh. I went as Tom that day. We were talking about many things, including gender, and I mentioned that Diane was always with me. At that moment we were seated across a table from each other; I was sprawled sideways across my chair and leaning on the brass rail that separated the coffee shop from the bookstore. I said, "All I have to do is change the way I occupy space, change my voice, and now I'm Diane!" I did these things as I said this, and ended the sentence in a proper-and-feminine pose with feminine voice. I was no longer Tom; I was Diane in drab.
This was deeply and immediately unnerving to my friend; the shock was visible on his face. We continued talking for the rest of the afternoon, but it wasn't until later that I learned that he'd needed nearly two days to recover from the shock.
What I didn't learn until months later was that my friend has multiple personalities. "Switching" meant something very specific and personal to him. As I am probably a borderline multiple myself, I have enough empathy with his situation to know that sometimes teasing can go over a fine line, even when we don't intend it to.
For Valentine's Day, my best friend gave me (among other things) a t-shirt with the word WYSIWYG across the chest in huge letters. So much for truth in advertising. I asked her if she would wear it anywhere, and she said no. I'm not sure where I'd wear it, either! But we had fun with it.
Carol and I went out to dinner the other night at a Chinese restaurant where I've been going for at least 10 or 12 years. I've always chatted with the owner there, every time I've seen her. But this visit was the first time I'd seen her since transition.
The conversation we had that night started with her saying, oh, I've been serving you here for a long time, right?
I answered yes, it's probably been at least 10 years, maybe more.
Yes, she agreed, that's quite a long time.
We continued for another couple of lines, but all the way through, there was a hesitation in her speech that was not typical for her. And the content of the conversation was a bit inane.
As Carol and I walked out, it was hard not to laugh until the doors were closed behind us. We both figured out very quickly that the real question was, are you the same person I thought I used to know?
It happens like that, no matter how many times or places you come out. Some people don't know until they see you. A couple of months before transition, I ran into a former neighbor who hadn't seen me with any of the changes I've gone through. I saw her before she saw me, so I got to watch the whole progression of, oh, that's a strikingly tall woman... oh, she really looks like.... oh, that is..... Every stage was visible on her face.
I found out later that she talked to my ex-wife a few days after this chance meeting. She asked--very cautiously--whether I was going through a "change of lifestyle." My ex-, who knows about me, said, oh, you mean the hair, the earrings...? The former neighbor said yes. They talked a bit more, but the neighbor never mentioned how I was dressed.
She can talk to me in a parking lot, and be OK with it at the time, but later she can't talk about what she saw.
It is to laugh.
(Just in case, "WYSIWYG" means "what you see is what you get".)
Copyright © 1996, 2001 by Diane Wilson. All rights reserved.